Recently, I was talking with my sister about who-knows-what.
At some point, she asked me why I did something, and I immediately launched into what was to be a lengthy discussion – a history, if you will – of why I had a certain viewpoint. I went back to the beginning, describing the scene, the players, and adding my favorite line – the one that means what I’m about to tell you is absolutely truthful, “I remember it like it was yesterday.”
I was prepared. I knew the story inside and out – about this incident and the wrong perpetuated upon me. And as I was getting into the tale, just starting to tell my sister where things had gone wrong, she stopped me.
“You know,” she began, “I’ve noticed something that you do quite often when you tell a story. You identify each and every person, where you were standing, what they were wearing, who-said-what, and every detail imaginable. It’s so vivid in you mind.”
This was a ‘duh’ moment for me.
“Of course,” I said. “I chronicle things. That’s what I do.” Like I said – duh.
“Well,” she continued, “it occurred to me that it’s so vivid in your mind because you haven’t learned to let those things go. You stay in that moment and never really move on.”
I won’t lie: That comment really pissed me off. I don’t know why, except to say that I took it as being judgmental and dismissive. I mean, all jokes about history aside, who was she to tell me that I was in error for being aware of how I’ve been wronged? Isn’t that how you avoid being wronged in the future – by being aware of how you were hurt in the past? You can’t just write something off because a day – or a year – has passed, can you?
Before I could counter this, she went on: “There are good things waiting for you in life, but if you’re constantly staying in the same place – or worse, if you’ve got yourself closed off to them – you’ll never experience those blessings. And I want good things for you.”
I should point out at this point that my sister and I had a decent childhood. We were not particularly close, but then again, I was – as now – essentially a loner. Still, we’d always had a reasonable relationship. This changed as family crises cropped up. A funny aspect of life is that as you get older, you become more fixated on mortality, and a by-product of that new awareness is that you become more selective about what issues you’ll fuss and fight over. You also start to reevaluate personal relationships, and that’s what happened here: My sister and I are probably closer today than we’ve ever been in our lives.
Her reprimand was not born of hostility or frustration (from probably hearing the same story for the umpteenth time), but from love, and I respect that. My anger at her comments subsided, and I took in her words. Then I made a horrible admission – she was right.
It’s horrible because 1) I don’t ever want to admit that my sister is correct on anything, and 2) I was stuck in place, spinning my wheels, as it were. I’ve been so keen on staring backwards that I have been missing a lot of good things coming my way.
“Well, there’s just a lot of bad crap,” I tossed out – a feeble excuse.
“I know you’re hurt,” she concluded, “but sometimes your pain isn’t for your sake. Sometimes your pain is designed to help someone else.”
This is so true. I can’t begin to tell you of the number of times I’ve seen someone struggling with a problem or difficulty, only to see them as an example of how I should handle myself. Given her own difficulties, I know that my sister did not make this comment lightly. I know of several people who’ve commented in private about how watching her handle the myriad of problems she’s had has affected their lives. It also reminded me what a former supervisor said to me when I first started working: “You never know who’s watching you.”
I’ve often written about wanting to embrace forgiveness and letting go of things that are no longer of consequence. I’ve also often noted how difficult it is to pull myself up from that quagmire – every step forward is met with me sliding three steps back. It’s hard for me to let go – so much of my life was wrapped around the idea of hanging on to that crap, why, I’ll never know. I love my sister, but I admire the woman she’s become. The problems she’s faced were massive, but she’s persevered in ways I can’t even imagine. So there’s an element of truth in her words. Seeing her work through her pain has definitely caused me to reflect on my own, and change some things accordingly. But I’m determined – probably more so now than ever – to end my cycle of self-defeatism, and I think that Nature is on my side this time.
How do I know this?
Right after this conversation, I received an e-mail from a former friend. We’d had contact with each other just once in over twenty years, and that was well over ten years ago. I could go into the history of our friendship – ha! – but heeding my sister’s advice, I won’t. I will say this, however: The e-mail led to a letter – an olive branch for reconciliation. And while this friend was responsible for some pretty dark days, I did the only thing that I could do, given my mindset.
I accepted and offered my own olive branch in return.
I’m looking forward to see what happens. Hopefully, I’m not too late to see a few good things coming my way.